Hugh Brundage is probably one of the least remembered personalities on Old Time Radio. He was a California native, born in 1909, who spent his entire broadcasting career in Los Angeles.
After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1931, tried to embark on a career in business, first dealing with the Signal Petroleum Company of Long Beach. At the time that oil company was toying around with the idea for a radio program based upon the Tarzan series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs happened to be in the corporate office when Hugh was applying for the job. The personnel manager said that positions that he was qualified for were already filled, in fact, they were actually laying off some of the junior executives and asking the senior ones to retire early.
But Burroughs heard Hugh speak. "You know, son, you have a good speaking voice. How would you like a job in radio? We'll be working in L.A. starting in a couple of days. You don't even need to audition. I'll use the paperwork here to get you onto the station." So Burroughs gave Hugh the information of where to go.
When Hugh returned to his parents he told them that he got a job. They were surprised that he got a job offer at the first interview.
"No, Ma," he explained, "I didn't interview. They just took me."
"How much are you getting, Hugh?" his father asked.
"When do you start?"
"Monday in the late afternoon."
"That's a funny time to start work in the oil business, even for an executive."
"I'm not going to be an executive."
"Oh? Then what will you be doing? Drilling? Refurbishing? Bringing glasses of iced tea to the hard working men?"
"I won't even be working near an oilfield. I'll be close to here."
"Signal only has gas stations in this neck of the woods. You're going to be a service attendant pumping gas and checking oil? You were never very mechanical."
"No. I won't be working at a gas station. I'll be working on the radio."
His parents couldn't believe their ears. Their son was going to be a famous radio star. Hugh didn' have the guts to tell them that he didn't know what he was going to be doing himself. They didn't give him any scripts or anything. Not even a pass to let him in the studio.
The radio station was KHJ. It was located next door to a Cadillac dealership owned by Don Lee, who was the Cadillac dealer for the entire West Coast. Hugh wore his best suit. It was the man he was going to interview at the Signal office in Long Beach who let him into the studio.
After they got in, he told him what was happening.
"OK, Hugh... Here's the story... You are the announcer on a program about Tarzan, the character that Edgar Rice Burroughs writes about in novels. Do you remember him?"
"He's in the audience. He asked for you to be the announcer. You might be a young man but your voice sounds so mature. You'll be the first person that anyone hears. Even before Tarzan lets out his yell, they'll hear you."
He continued: "Now, just so you know, Hugh. Let me explain how radio works. I am the sponsor. I am actually in charge of the program. My company, Signal Petroleum, owns the Tarzan program. It's only 15 minutes and it will be playing only in states where they have Signal service stations. As far as oil companies go, we're pretty small. They own the radio program so they can get more customers. KNX and Don Lee, along with CBS, only give us a place to put the show on. And, if someone goofs, they punish us. So we have to do a good show."
"OK. My parents are listening this afternoon."
"Where do they live, Hugh?"
"Not far from here. I just told them the name of the station I was going to be working at and they'll keep the wireless going on until they hear me."
"That's good. We'll all be proud of you."
Hugh was scared when he read the script. They let him go over it alone for about 45 minutes. Then they went on.
There would be many more programs for Hugh, although he would rarely use his name while announcing. He did so well for Tarzan at KHJ, they hired him for work at KNX, and KFI/KECA (the two NBC stations were both owned by Earle C. Anthony.) Occasionally, he would give his name, but that was so rare.
His voice became the voice of Oscar as he was the announcer for the Academy Awards, no matter where they were held, and no matter if they were a banquet or a formal awards ceremony.
That let to him being the announcer for an anthology series in 1946 called Academy Award. Heard over CBS on varying nights of the weeks the mission of the show was to bring "Hollywood's finest, the great picture plays, the great actors and actresses, techniques and skills, chosen from the honor roll of those who have won or been nominated for the famous golden Oscar of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences." It was a very expensive program. The show itself cost $4,000 a week, plus another $1,600 had to be paid to the Academy for the use of the name. And his own name was heard at the beginning and the end of every program.
The sponsor of the program was the Squibb company and the featured product was Squibb Dental Cream. This toothpaste hasn't been available since 1956 but in the 1940s, it was one of the biggest selling brands. Squibb got out of the toothpaste business but continued making Broxodent toothbrushes for many years after that.
After Academy Award, Hugh continued as a staff announcer at KNX and for many CBS shows produced at Columbia Square.
In 1957, he became the sole newsperson at radio station KDAY in Santa Monica. This was one of the newer stations that wasn't playing any radio dramas or variety programs it was a Top 40 station that played the hits of the day with news for five minutes on the hour and on the half hour. Well, that only lasted a year. He went back to his postion as staff announcer at CBS in Hollywood for many more years.
In 1965, Gene Autry had purchased radio station KMPC and TV station KTLA. He chose Hugh to be both stations' news director. He was heard on KMPC during weekday afternoons and seen on KTLA at night.
Hugh Brundage died in 1972 at the age of 63.